Thinking a little differently
June 21, 2018

Thinking a little differently

Thinking a little differently

A couple of weeks ago there were large floods in my home region, Gisborne and the East Coast of New Zealand. It is a region of steep, erodable hills and a lot of pine forestry plantations. With the heavy rain, and the steep hills, along with the water came nearly a million tonnes of "forestry slash", the limbs and debris that is left after pruning and harvesting. 

It smashed into bridges, houses, covered beaches and caused millions of dollars of damage. The obvious answer is to make the forestry companies responsible, to clear the slash before it builds up, to "do the right thing". But the problem is the costs. I am not arguing against companies taking proper care and being responsible. But this a remote, very lightly populated region with very high, rugged hill country. It will cost a huge amount to clear all the slash. Many of those companies will walk away, and the jobs and income that they bring ( and that is estimated at 1/6th to 1/4 of the total GDP of the region, an area that is already the poorest in NZ.

But if the slash and waste wood is worth something then perhaps it becomes worthwhile to the companies to collect it. At the same time we have this problem of waste wood causing damage, scientists elsewhere are discovering they can make graphene out of pine wood in particular, due to the high lignin content in the wood.


If they can scale it, they can replace many elements in electronics with wood lignin. So instead of e-waste that damages and pollutes the environment, there will be organic wooden waste that will decompose naturally.

 A win win. Decreasing e waste around the world, another valuable product from what is now waste wood. Maybe two problems saved at once. Maybe more jobs in regions like my home, where jobs are hard to come by. 

Perhaps one day.